An Otaku's Guide to Buying Japanese Pop Culture Merchandise

A sampling of places otaku can buy apparel, Jpop, Jrock, geta, bento boxes, plushies, anime figures and other Japanese entertainment merchandise.

For some otaku, anime and manga are just the beginning of their fascination-obsession with Japanese pop culture. Whether it's Glico Pocky or Japanese ear cleaners, there is a plethora of Japanese merchandise that otaku can purchase locally or online. This is a selection of what I have tracked down in my searches as well as places I have shopped at.

Shopping for Japanese Entertainment Merchandise in North America

Chain bookstores such as Chapters/Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Powell's Bookstore stock a variety of manga and graphic novels. These stores carry most of the popular titles, including Bleach, Chobits and Naruto.Larger city centers also have independent comic and hobby stores that sell anime, manga, figures and other toys. The following are some anime-related stores in North America:

  1. Kinokuniya Bookstores are found in Australia, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand,Taiwan and the USA (California, New York, Oregon and Washington). Kinokuniya carries CD's and videos by popular Japanese artists and bands such as Arashi, Yui and Rie Fu.
  2. Shirokiya (Honolulu, HI) is a Japanese department store in Ala Moana Center. Otaku can find a wide variety of merchandise, including kimonos, geta, Jpop and Jrock CD's, sake sets and food.
  3. Konbiniya Japan Centre (Vancouver, BC) carries a wide selection of Japanese products, including Japanese DVDs, drinks, food, karaoke, kitchenware, manga and snacks.
  4. Broadcast Entertainment and Fantasia (Markham, ON) carries anime DVD's, CD's, key chains, bags and other knick-knacks. There is a wide assortment of Helly Kitty merchandise, such as pencil cases and wallets.

Buy Anime, Manga and Video Game Merchandise at Anime Conventions

Three of my fave anime characters. Photo by R-M Arca.

The Dealer Room, also referred to as the Vendor Room or Exhibitors' Hall, is a mecca for anime fangirls and fanboys. Large anime cons can draw hundreds of exhibitors. For instance, Anime North (Toronto, ON) had over 200 tables of merchandise at its 2010 convention, while Sakura Con (Seattle, WA) had more than 100 vendor booths.At anime and comic conventions, enthusiasts can purchase everything from cosplay accessories, anime DVD's, Jpop CD's, video games, plushies, bags, manga, light novels and figures. The Artists' Alley sells anime-themed posters, bookmarks, comics and buttons drawn by emerging and established artists. Popular series such as Bleach, Code Geass, Fullmetal Alchemist and Hetalia Axis Powers are popular sellers.

Shopping Online for Japanese Apparel, Music, DVD's, Manga and More

This is a short list of reputable online stores that sell legal anime-related and Japanese entertainment merchandise:

  1. Animenation (Tampa, FL): Founded in 1995, Animenation has over 8,000 products and gets 15 million page views per month. Bestsellers include Bleach manga and DVD's, Soul Eater DVD's, Samurai Champloo action figures and the Appleseed EX Machina figure. Ships worldwide.
  2. CDJapan (Tokyo, Japan): Founded in 1997, CDJapan, sells a wide selection of the hottest Jpop and Jrock by artists such as GACKT, BoA, Do as Infinity and Kanon. CDJapan also sells anime OST music and singles from popular anime such as Macross Frontier and Soul Eater, as well as apparel, books, magazine, figures, collectibles and games. Ships worldwide.
  3. J-List (Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture, Japan): Founded in 1996, J-List now serves 200,000 customers worldwide. J-List also has a North American office in San Diego, CA. Thousands of products are available, from magazines to cosplay, calendars to t-shirts and more. Popular items include the Saori Hara Special DVD Box Set, Tsumugi Kotobuki Figma Action Figure from K-ON!, and Shirokuma Ice Cream Drops. J-List has a separate area for adult material. J-Box is a special section for shoppers under the age of 18.
  4. Right Stuf Inc. (Grimes, IA): Founded in 1997, Right Stuf is an online anime superstore which sells a wide selection of anime merchandise anime DVD's, manga, games, bags, plushies, wall scrolls and other collectibles. Popular sellers include the Ouran High School Host Club Hunny's Rabbit Plush Bag, Tsundere Tribute Japanese t-shirt and the Tsubasa Necklace: Sakura Feather
  5. Yesasia (Hong Kong, Japan, Korea): Founded in 1998, Yesasia has been ranked in the Top 50 and Top 500 Lists for Top Retailer Websites. Yesasia sells anime, movies, plushies, models, electronics and models from popular anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and the Gundam series.

When shopping online, shoppers should buy from retailers with a solid reputation, good customer service and a satisfactory returns policy. For more information about online shopping, read the Consumer Guide to Internet Shopping.

Otaku Customer Reflections

In my pursuit of otaku goodies, I have shopped at anime conventions, at local stores and online. If you have a chance to go to Shirokiya in Hawaii, you won't be disappointed. Three floors of Japanese culture. I could have spent hours in there!

As for the online stores, I have shopped at CD Japan, Animenation and JList. All three have a wide selection of anime, cosplay and manga products. Orders are quickly filled and the quality of the products are high.

From hoodies to Gundam models and from Hiragana flash cards to cosplay caps, there are numerous places for anime, manga, gamers and geeks to get their "Japanese fix". Local bookstores, anime conventions and Internet retailers offer countless items to suit otaku of all ages and interests. References:

J!-ENT: Sakura Con 2010 was Another Huge Success.

The Asunaro Club's Guide to Japanese Music: Where to Buy Japanese Music.